NYPD: All Wounded Bystanders Shot by Police

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 25 2012 1:00 PM

All Bystanders Shot Outside Empire State Building Were Hit By Police Fire

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The scene outside the Empire State Building on Friday morning

Photograph byKatie Killary/NYCphotos/Twitter.

—A 56-year-old gunman on Friday morning shot and killed a former coworker outside the Empire State Building, before then being shot and killed by police. Nine bystanders were injured when police opened fire to take out the gunman. It remains unclear if the wounded were struck by shots fired by the gunman or police, but all of the bystanders are currently expected to live. We'll continue to update with any major developments.

UPDATE #10: All nine people who suffered gunshot wounds outside the Empire State Buiding Friday morning were hit by police gunfire, Police Commsisione Raymond W. Kelly said Saturday. Citing ballistics evidence, Kelly said that it looks like three of the nine bystanders were hit with bullets, while the rest were “struck with fragments of some sort,” reports the New York Times. Three of the victims remained hospitalized Saturday but were in stable condition.

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Video released late Friday (embedded below) shows how the police officers opened fire on Jeffrey Johnson as soon as he pointed a .45-caliber pistol at them on the sidewalk. One officer fired seven times, the other nine times. Neither had ever fired their weapon on patrol before, reports the Associated Press. Although witnesses had initially said Johnson had fired at the officers, Kelly said it looks like he never fired his gun after shooting and killing a former colleague.

UPDATE #9 12:03 p.m.: A little house cleaning: NYPD Chief Raymond Kelly just told CNN and others that he was mistaken when he said the shooter, Jeffrey Johnson was 53. Johnson was actually 56 years old.

Also: The reason police say that at least some of the nine injured bystanders may have been shot by police, and not the gunman, is because the gun that Johnson was in possession of held only 8 rounds. Police say Johnson shot his initial target three times.

UPDATE #8 11:32 a.m.: NYC Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Chief Raymond Kelly just briefed the media. The big takeaways: Only two deaths, the shooter and his former coworker. Nine bystanders were also injured during the incident.

Bloomberg said that it remains possible that some of the wounded were mistakenly shot by police when they opened fire to take out the gunman after he drew his weapon on responding officers. "There's no expectation that any of them will do anything other than recover quickly," Bloomberg said of the wounded.

The shooter, as IDed by police: 53-year-old Jeffrey Johnson, a former "designer of women's accessories" at Hazan Imports, which is located in the Empire State Building. According to authorities, Johnson lost his job roughly a year ago during a downsizing at the company. He returned to the building today and shot his 41-year-old victim–who was either a current or former Hazan employee–in the head with a .45 pistol outside of the iconic New York City landmark.

Johnson then fled on foot and was later pursued by police after a construction worker who witnessed the shooting alerted authorities to his whereabouts. When the officers got near, according to Bloomberg and Kelly, Johnson drew his weapon and aimed it at police, prompting them to shoot to kill. It is not yet clear if Johnson got any shots off during the exchange, according to the NYPD.

Bloomberg's closing words at the presser: "There's an awful lot of guns out there."

UPDATE #7 11:17 a.m.: CNN reports that at least 6 of the 8 people injured during the incident have been taken to Bellevue Hospital, and did not sustain life-threatening injuries.

UPDATE #6 10:58 a.m.: Witnesses have taken to Instagram to post photos of the shooting, including a handful they claim are of the shooter after he was shot by police. (Should go without saying, but several are obviously graphic in nature.) Several of the photos appear to conflict with an earlier report from the New York Daily News suggesting that the gunman was wearing a grey suit at the time he opened fire. However, the man in the photos could easily be a victim.

UPDATE #5 10:48 a.m.: Local and federal sources tell NBC New York that the gunman was fired from job yesterday and returned today to target his boss. Still no official word on the death toll.

UPDATE #4 10:42 a.m.: The Associated Press has confirmed that the shooting stemmed from a workplace dispute. The AP's latest on the wounded: "Police say as many as 10 people were injured, but it is unclear how many of them were hit by bullets."

UPDATE #3 10:34 a.m.: Local website DNAinfo.com New York treads carefully with this: "Sources said that the suspect may have been recently fired from his job at an import/export business in the building and that the man who died was the manager."

UPDATE #2 10:30 a.m.: Witnesses tell the New York Daily News that the gunman wore a grey suit and carried a briefcase as he opened fire:

“He shot the guy in the head,” said [Construction worker Chris] Ogden, 23. “The guy went down. He took a second shot when he was down.” The well-dressed shooter then “walked down the block, like nothing was happening, real casual,” Ogden said. “We were screaming from the top, ‘It’s the guy in the grey suit!’”

UPDATE #1 10:22 a.m.: The New York Post, which is also reporting that the shooter was a disgruntled worker, says that there are three people dead: the shooter, his coworker and an innocent bystander:

"A disgruntled worker stalked a colleague down a Midtown street, shot him dead and then turned his weapon on random pedestrians outside the Empire State Building — killing at least one innocent bystander and shooting up to seven others before he was cut down by a cop on foot patrol, sources told The Post."

***

A developing shooting out of New York City: A gunman opened fire outside of the Empire State Building this morning, injuring multiple people before he was shot by police, according to local authorities.

Details are still sketchy and there are somewhat conflicting reports about the number shot and their respective conditions. Reuters, citing an unnamed police source, is reporting that at least two people are dead—one of which is the shooter—and a total of eight others are injured. CNN and others also are reporting that a total of 10 people were shot, although they say that as of now only the shooter has been confirmed dead.

The motive behind the shooting was not immediately clear, although police sources have stressed to multiple outlets that the shooting is not terror related. A reporter for local NBC News affiliate, Jonathan Dienst, is reporting that the shooter was a "disgruntled employee" who had just been fired. An eyewitness tells the Associated Press that the gunman was "shooting indiscriminately at people" outside the New York City landmark.

Authorities say they received their first emergency calls shortly after 9 a.m. and that police arrived on the scene outside the building in Midtown Manhattan within minutes. With the shooter reportedly dead, the situation appears under control at the moment, but we'll continue to update with more as this story develops...

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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